What is a Civil Protection Order?
Many of our readers may have heard of protection orders. Whether in their own lives, from friends, or on the news, protection orders may come up in conversations anytime someone is dealing with Temporary Protection Orders, Civil Protection Orders, Restraining Orders, No Contact Orders or “Stay-Away Orders.” First of all, some of these terms are interchangeable general terms for “protection orders.” Specifically, “Stay-away” Orders, No Contact Orders, and Restraining Orders are all non-specific terms for protection orders of some kind. This article will deal primarily with Civil Protection Orders. You have likely heard of the Civil Protection Order (CPO) and you may be wondering what a Civil Protection Order is in legal terms. In this article we will discuss CPOs and the proceedings that go along with them in Ohio.
While there are different types of protection orders, a Civil Protection Order gets its name because it is filed in civil court. Unlike criminal courts, a civil court will not automatically issue a protection order upon a charge of Domestic Violence (DV) or some other violent act. When it comes to a CPO, the civil court will only issue a protection order if a motion is filed by the alleged victim. How long the CPO lasts depends on the results of the proceedings, but it can be in place for at most five years.
This is where we need to clarify a few terms for the rest of this discussion to make sense. The one who petitions for the CPO is legally known as the petitioner and they may or may not be the same person as the alleged victim. The petitioner petitions for a CPO to be issued against a person legally known as the respondent. The CPO prohibits the respondent from having contact with the alleged victim.
The relationship between the alleged victim and the respondent determines which division of the Court issues the CPO. If they are married, the Protection Order will be filed in the Domestic Relations Division. Otherwise, the General Civil Division will normally be responsible for issuing the order.
Once the petitioner/victim files a petition for a CPO in the appropriate court, the matter is scheduled for its first hearing. We cover the different types of hearings throughout the process and what happens at a CPO hearing later in the What to Expect with a Civil Protection Order section. However, it is important to understand that for the CPO to go into effect in the first place, it must be approved at the initial hearing. It is not necessary for the respondent to be charged with a violent crime in order for this hearing to take place. As long as the petitioner filed for a CPO correctly, the court can schedule the first hearing and start the CPO process.
This should have answered the main question of what a Civil Protection Order is. In summary, it is a court order, issued by a civil court, ordering one specific person (respondent) to stay away from another specific person (the petitioner and/or victim) which can last up to five years and can be placed without a criminal charge of violence in Ohio.
What to do if there is a Civil Protection Order Placed Against You
If a CPO is successfully issued against you, you may want to try to get it dismissed. Note that depending on the situation, you may be able to get the results you want without having the CPO dismissed entirely, usually by negotiating some kind of deal with the petitioner. However, if you are wondering how to get a Civil Protection Order dropped entirely, that is, have the order dismissed, it is possible in some cases.
Note that the results of a CPO case partly depend on the opinion of the court. Therefore, there is no way to say “Do this and have the CPO dropped.” However, if you or your attorney can convince the court that the CPO is baseless and unnecessary, the CPO is more likely to be dismissed.
Keep in mind that if you have a CPO against you, you MUST NOT contact the alleged victim. You cannot even have someone else contact the alleged victim on your behalf, except for your attorney. If you hire an attorney, your attorney may contact the petitioner directly. Also keep in mind that even if the alleged victim does tell the court that they no longer want the CPO, the court does not automatically have to dismiss the it. But again, unless the CPO has been negotiated away or dismissed, you should not contact the alleged victim. Even though a CPO is not issued by a criminal court, violating a CPO can result in a criminal charge.
What to Expect with a Civil Protection Order
When a petitioner files for a Civil Protection Order, either as the victim or on behalf of an alleged victim, the court will schedule a hearing very soon after the petition is filed, often the same day. This hearing is ex parte meaning that only one side (the petitioner’s side) is represented. However, the respondent will eventually have a chance to be represented in this process. The Judge or Magistrate can decide at the ex parte hearing not to issue a CPO at all, but if the petitioner is successful in convincing the court to issue one, the CPO will be served on the respondent soon after it is issued.
When the respondent receives the CPO, the respondent will be notified of a full hearing, at which the respondent will be heard. In order to fight the CPO, the respondent has to show up to the full hearing. Some courts will sometimes schedule a short hearing called a response hearing to determine if the full hearing even needs to take place, whereas other courts will schedule the full hearing directly after issuing the CPO. Either way, the respondent has the option of representing himself/herself, or hiring an attorney. In some cases, the respondent may not want to be around the alleged victim anyway and decide not to appear for the full hearing at all. This is not recommended. A CPO will show up on a respondent’s record, so the respondent should fight the CPO even if the respondent does not want to have contact with the alleged victim.
Oftentimes, a respondent can negotiate an agreement to settle the case with the petitioner. This agreement can be reached before the full CPO hearing even takes place if the respondent has an attorney who can contact the petitioner or the petitioner’s attorney. A response hearing can also be an opportunity for the two sides to reach an agreement before the full hearing, but again, not every court will schedule a response hearing.
If no agreement is reached before the full hearing, an agreement can still be reached at the full CPO hearing itself. If, at any point in the process, an agreement is reached between the petitioner and the respondent, the Judge or Magistrate presiding over the case will sign a document known as a Consent Decree. The Consent Decree details the terms of the agreement. The parties agree to adhere to the terms of the Consent Decree, and this is usually the end of the CPO case.
If on the other hand, the respondent will not agree to the CPO at all, the court must decide whether to keep the CPO in place or dismiss it entirely. If the court decides to keep the CPO in place without an agreement from the respondent, then the CPO is likely to remain in effect for the full five years and be unfavorable for the respondent. Furthermore, if the case has to go to the full hearing, the court will have to make legal findings, which could be an issue for the respondent’s record, as we discuss in the next section. Depending on the situation, a respondent may find that reaching an agreement is more beneficial than taking the risks associated with fighting the case at a full hearing.
How the Civil Protection Order Could Impact your Future
If you have had a CPO placed against you, you may have more concerns other than just making sure you stay away from the protected person. You may be wondering how the order will look on your record or if it will show up on a background check.
The CPO could, indeed, show up on a background check, and many respondents may be concerned at the way it looks. Potential employers, for example, may view the existence of a protection order as a red flag. Furthermore, the court may have made factual findings that place the respondent in a bad light. As mentioned above, if the respondent agrees to a Consent Decree, the court will not make factual findings. In that case, while the CPO could still show up on a background check, but the respondent could tell any potential employer that the court made no findings that the respondent had done anything wrong. If, on the other hand, the respondent takes the case to a full hearing and fails to get the CPO dismissed, there will most likely be findings of misconduct by the respondent.
Oftentimes, a respondent is charged criminally for the same incident that resulted in the CPO. If this is the case, the criminal charge most likely looks worse on your record and may or may not be an expungable offense. If you are looking for information on sealing/expunging a criminal charge, you can read our other articles on the topic such as New Expungement Law in Ohio: What you Should Know for 2019.
Civil versus Criminal Protection Orders
Thus far in this article we have talked mainly about Civil Protection Orders, which was the goal for this article. However, it is worth mentioning that many respondents dealing with a CPO could also be dealing with protection orders from a criminal case if there is one happening simultaneously. When dealing with a DV charge, the criminal court will often issue a Temporary Protection Order (TPO). TPOs usually last until the end of the criminal case. The process for fighting a TPO is different from the process for fighting a CPO and would be done as part of your criminal case. If you are a defendant in a criminal case as well as a respondent in a civil case, you must make sure that you do not violate either protection order. The CPO can still be issued after a TPO terminates, and a TPO can still be in place after a CPO is dismissed. If you are facing one or more protection order, it is important for you to understand the conditions of each one and what you are required to do or not do.
This has been a long and complex discussion for one of our blog posts, but that is the nature of CPOs. To sum up what we have discussed, here is the process in simplified terms:
A person petitions the court for a Civil Protection Order. The petitioner does not have to be the alleged victim, but often times they are the same person. The court then schedules an ex parte hearing in which only one side is represented to determine if the court should issue a CPO at all. If the court does issue the CPO, it is served on the respondent, who can then hire an attorney to try to settle the case or go to the full CPO hearing. As discussed above, there are some risks to the respondent in letting the case go to the full hearing, but it may be the best decision. Before the hearing, the ex parte CPO is usually in effect, so the respondent must not contact the alleged victim or have anyone else do so, except the respondent’s attorney. Once at the full hearing, the respondent can show up with or without an attorney to try to settle on an agreement in the courtroom or try to get the CPO dismissed entirely. At the end of the full hearing, one of two things will happen: 1) The CPO is dismissed, or 2) the CPO stays in full effect for up to five years.
This CPO Process is entirely separate from any Criminal Protection Order that could be put in place.
While protection orders are almost always diificult for everyone on both sides of the case, we know that understanding the process can make things easier. If you still have questions or would like legal representation for a protection order case in Ohio, feel free to call our law offices at (513) 932-5529 or us the contact page on our website.